Sweden

RegionNorthern Europe
CapitalStockholm
LanguageSwedish
Population10,333,456
Expenditure on higher education3,8 %
Unemployment6,8 %
EuroUniversities in top 1001
EuroUniversities in top 2505
EuroUniversities in top 50011
EuroUniversities in top 100019
Students210,000
Foreigner students4,2 %
Enrollment rate in higher education67,1 %

Sweden is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. Higher education and research in Sweden take place at 15 state universities (universitet) and 16 state university colleges (högskolor). Parallel with the state institutions there are also a number of independent organisers with the right to award qualifications. The higher education institutions range from large ‘classic’ broad universities to specialised institutions of different sizes in e.g. fine arts or agricultural science. Mainly as a result of the Bologna process, legislation for a three-cycle structure of higher education has been adopted and is applied since 2007. The degree system has been reformed and structured to fit the new three-cycle system, which is now the only structure for all higher education. This improves international comparability of Swedish education in accordance with the Bologna process. First and second cycle education is referred to as undergraduate education and the third cycle as postgraduate education.

The Ministry of Education and Research (Utbildningsdepartementet) is responsible for the system of higher education. Higher education is financed through state grants to the individual institutions based on the number of students and their achievements with varying amounts of remuneration for the various educational areas. Independent institutions that receive governmental grants cannot charge tuition fees. There are some independent institutions that do not receive governmental grants; hence they are free to charge tuition fees. These institutions are classified as private.

The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet) manages quality control for higher education and degree authorisation of state universities. It is responsible for the legal oversight and the efficiency review, analysis and statistical monitoring of higher education. The Swedish Council of Higher Education (Universitets- och högskolerådet) administers admission to study programmes on behalf of the higher education institutions. It also recognises qualifications from abroad and promotes participation in international colaboration. The National Board of Student Aid (Centrala studiestödsnämnden, CSN) is responsible for the allocation of financial support to students and the repayment of student loans.

Historical Overview

In 1977 higher education underwent comprehensive reforms. Nearly all post-secondary education was integrated into a single system governed by common legislation and ordinances. At the same time open admission was abolished by the Swedish parliament (riksdagen), which from now on each year decided on the dimensioning of educational study programmes and the scope of single-subject courses. The admission to education programmes was handled by a central authority that also managed the planning of the education provided, including general curricula for the national study programmes. The higher education institutions themselves handled admission to courses.

A new act and ordinance for the higher education sector was adopted in 1993. Planning and decisions on content of study programmes was transferred to the institutions for higher education, while the responsibility for the scope and goals of the degrees remained with the Swedish government (regeringen) and the parliament (riksdagen). The main aim of the reform was to give higher education institutions greater freedom in decision making over courses and admission of students, who in their turn gained greater freedom of choice.

In July 2007, mainly as a result of the Bologna process, legislation for a three-cycle structure of higher education was adopted. The new structure replaced the former system and is today the only structure for all higher education.

In 2010, the Swedish parliament (riksdagen) decided in accordance with the government bill (2009/10:149) “Academia for this day and age – greater freedom for universities and other higher education institutions”, increasing the freedom of publicly funded universities and other higher education institutions regarding internal organisation and teaching positions.

Specific Legislative Framework

The Higher Education Act (Högskolelagen, SFS 1992:1434) was determined by the Swedish parliament (riksdagen) in 1993 and contains provisions about the higher education institutions. The provisions are supplemented by regulations in the Higher Education Ordinance (Högskoleförordningen, SFS 1993:100), decided by the Swedish government (regeringen) in 1993. An appendix to the Higher Education Ordinance contains the Qualifications Ordinance (Examensordningen). It stipulates the qualifications that may be awarded in first, second and third cylce education and their requirements.

Grant-aided independent institutions base their work on an agreement with the government and are obliged, as well as state universities and state university colleges, to follow the statutes, ordinances and regulations relevant to the higher education sector.

General Objectives

Governed by the general regulations in the legislative framework, higher education institutions (universities and university colleges) are free to define their own goals and how the programmes are organised. Their main tasks are to:

● Provide education that is based on scientific or artistic grounds as well as on well-established experience

● Carry out research and artistic and other development work

● Co-operate with the surrounding society and inform the public about the institutions’ activities

In higher education there should be a close link between research and education. Scientific credibility and good practice are to be safeguarded. The higher education institutions must tailor their activities to attain high quality and make efficient use of available resources. Institutions of higher education should promote students influence over the education, as well as the understanding of other countries and international relations. Higher education institutions should work actively to broaden recruitment to higher education among goups that are currently underrepresented in higher education. No student is to be the subject of discrimination based on gender, age, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or disabilities.

General Objectives for First and Second Cycle Education

Students within first and second cycle (undergraduate) studies should develop:

● The ability to make independent and critical assessments

● The ability to identify, formulate and solve problems

● A preparedness to deal with changes in working life

In addition to acquiring knowledge and skills in the field covered by the course, students should develop the ability to:

● Seek and evaluate knowledge at scientific level

● Follow developments in knowledge

● Exchange knowledge with people without special expertise in the field

Professional degrees have additional specific learning outcomes.

General Objectives for Third Cycle Education

Third cycle (post-graduate) studies shall, in addition to deepen and broaden the student’s knowledge and skills as stipulated for first and second cycle (undergraduate) studies, provide the student with the knowledge and skills necessary to carry out independent research.

Financial Support for Students

Public higher education in Sweden is grant-aided and free of charge. State-funded institutions are not allowed to charge fees. This means that all Swedish students and students from the EU/EEA are educated free of charge. Parallel with the state-funded institutions for higher education there are a number of independent institutions, of which some are not grant-aided and therefor are allowed to charge fees.

The National Board of Student Aid (Centrala studiestödsnämnden, CSN) is responsible for the allocation of financial support to students for studies and its repayment. Students who have been accepted by a university, university college or another post-secondary education institution and fulfil certain basic criteria have a right to student aid if they study at least half time, for at least three weeks. If a grant-aided independent institution is authorised to award qualifications, its students are entitled to receive financial support for their studies.

Student aid consists of two parts: a grant and a repayable loan. A student can choose to apply only for the grant. Under certain conditions a student may be entitled to student aid for studies outside of Sweden. Under certain circumstances the student may also be eligible to a supplementary loan. For students with children there is a possibility to receive extra child allowance. The upper age limit for study support is 56 years.

Startig from the autumn term of 2011, citizens from outside the EU/EEA and Switzerland – ‘third country students’ – have to pay tuition fees for higher education in Sweden. In connection to this reform, a new programme of scholarships was established. The scholarships are intended for particularly well qualified students from countries outside the EU/EEA and Switzerland. They particularly target students from Sweden’s partner countries in international development as well as developing countries (as defined by OECD/DAC). The scholarships are intended to pay all or part of the fees for studying at Swedish higher education institutions.

Organisation of the Academic Year

The higher education institutions decide how the school year is organised.

Courses are measured by a higher education credit system, where credits are equivalent to ECTC’s. The academic year is normally divided into two terms, each comprising 30 higher education credits. The autumn term begins generally at the end of August or at the beginning of September and finishes in the middle of January. The spring term begins in the middle of January and finishes at the end of May or at the beginning of June. Additional courses are often offered during the summer months.

The institutions for higher education are usually open all year, except for national holidays. The timing of vacations, examination periods and other breaks vary between institutions and are decided upon by the higher education institutions themselves.

Bachelor

Branches of Study

All higher education is pursued in courses and programmes. The courses can be taken independently or as part of a study programme to form degrees. The scale of a course or study programme is measured in higher education credits (högskolepoäng). Full-time studies during one term equals 30 higher education credits, equal to 30 ECTS. Higher education institutions decide about the organisation of their courses.

The degree descriptions are decided upon by the government (regeringen) in line with the overarching Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area (högskoleförordningen) and in the ordinance for the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Universitetskanslersämbetet).

The length of a Bachelor’s programme is three years.

Distance Education

Distance education has a long tradition in Sweden, as a sparsely populated but large country. Most higher education institutions offer distance courses of varying scope and orientation. The courses are designed to meet the educational needs of the individual as well as those of society, their purpose is to provide study opportunities regardless of place of residence and work or family circumstances. Thus, distance education is a way to enable studies later in life and promote lifelong learning. Technology for this – computers, interactive video and videophone – is creating further scope for distance education and has made this a priority development area.

Admission Requirements

To be admitted to a course or a study programme, the applicant must fulfil the basic conditions for eligibility as well as any specific qualifications prescribed by the higher education institution. Applications to the different courses and programmes are addressed to the Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitets- och högskolerådet), which handles the admission process for most higher education institutions. For admission to a university or university college that does not have this agreement with the Swedish Council for Higher Education, applications are addressed directly to the university or university college.

Each institution of higher education determines the number of study places to be provided in different subjects. Indirectly, the government (regeringen) determines the number of study places by setting a ceiling on the total allocation of state funds based on the number of students. If the ceiling is exceeded, the institution will not receive funds for all their students. The government also determines the goals for the number of degrees in a limited number of programmes.

Higher education institutions shall work actively to broaden student recruitment to include students from under-represented groups. They are urged to draw up local action plans with measurable goals for this.

Advanced courses in mathematics and languages give extra credit when rating merits for admission to higher education. The subjects given extra credit were introduced in the autumn of 2010. The purpose is to encourage upper secondary pupils to take advanced courses in mathematics and languages. This change also made it less advantageous to retake upper secondary courses in order to achieve a higher grade and to add courses after a completed upper secondary education in order to fulfill special qualifications required for eligibility.

Basic Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for higher education a student must have one of the qualifications below:

  • An upper secondary higher education preparatory diploma (högskoleförberedande gymnasieexamen), obtained in upper secondary education or formal adult education.
  • An upper secondary vocational diploma (yrkesexamen från gymnasieskolan), provided that specific higher education preparatory courses are taken, either as part of the curriculum or as complementary courses.

Eligibility for Foreign Students

Applicants from Denmark, Finland, Iceland or Norway who are eligible for higher education in their respective country are eligible for higher education in Sweden. Applicants whose native language is not Swedish, Danish, Faroese, Icelandic or Norwegian need to have an earlier education corresponding to Swedish upper secondary education as well as adequate command of Swedish and English.

Procedure for Students Lacking Formal Qualifications

Higher education institutions are free to admit applicants without formal requirements or standard qualifications, but who are recognised by the institution as having the aptitude to benefit from a higher education course/programme through prior learning in Swedish or foreign education, practical experience or other circumstances. The recognition of non-formal or informal learning for admission to higher education is decided locally by higher education institutions.

Specific Eligibility Requirements

Several programmes have field-specific entry requirements (områdesbehörighet). The Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitets- och högskolerådet) set out field-specific requirements for programmes leading to a professional degree while each institution is able to choose which field-specific requirements to use for programmes not leading to a professional degree. The specific requirements can include courses from national programmes in upper secondary school or equivalent knowledge from one or more courses in higher education or other experiences considered important.

Selection Procedure

If there are more applicants than places, the following selection procedures are applied:

  • Minimum 1/3 should be admitted on upper-secondary grades, the total of merit points (meritpoäng) from all courses passed during upper-secondary school
  • Minimum 1/3 should be admitted on the results of the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (Högskoleprovet)
  • Maximum 1/3 should be admitted on other criteria, decided locally by the higher education institutions

Curriculum

There is no common curriculum for higher education courses or programmes. In the Qualifications Ordinance (Examensordningen) the Government has laid down which degrees may be awarded and their objectives. It is up to each institution to decide how to reach the goals.

For undergraduate courses there must be a course syllabus and for a study programme a programme syllabus. The course syllabus must state the title of the course, the number of higher education credits, its level, aims, main content and course literature. In addition, the course syllabus must state the requirements regarding specific previous knowledge and other conditions for admission, the means by which students’ performance is assessed, if there is a limitation to the number of times a student may retake a test to achieve a passing grade, and the grades used, as well as any subsections in the course. The programme syllabus states the courses covered by the study programme, the main structure of the programme and any requirements regarding specific previous knowledge.

The teaching language is usually Swedish but in many subjects the course literature is in English and to some extent in other languages. Efforts to make higher education more international has led to increased student exchange and thereby to an increasing number of courses and programmes given in English.

Language programmes are offered in a number of European and non-European languages. Sweden’s five minority languages (Finnish, Sami, Romani Chib, Meänkieli and Yiddish) have special status.

Teaching Methods

Teachers decide on methods as well as material. Students normally pay for books and reading material whereas the institution provides laboratory equipment etc. Students are expected to participate actively in group and laboratory work as well as in seminars. Attendance and participation may be monitored. There may be various forms of continual assessment of courses, for example through oral examinations, group presentations or seminars. ICT and computers are important aids in all higher education.

The institutions themselves determine how courses are to be organised. There are courses structured by discipline and courses of an inter-disciplinary nature. Instruction may be provided in alternative ways, for example through problem-based learning (problembaserat lärande, pbl) where groups of students from different programmes (e.g. medicine, health sciences and physiotherapy) solve complex tasks together. In some education programmes (e.g. teacher education and nursing) some of the education takes place at a workplace. A number of institutions of higher education have close co-operation with companies and industries in the region; degree work may be carried out in companies and theoretical studies can be mixed with practice.

The language of instruction is usually Swedish, but a large part of the course literature is in English, and therefore a good knowledge of both Swedish and English is essential, and a basic requirement for eligibility to higher education.

Progression of Students

Regulations regarding retaking of courses are determined locally at every higher education institution. A student who has failed a course is entitled to retake it at least five times according to the Higher Education Ordinance (högskoleförordningen). There is no maximum time in which the students have to finish their courses; however student aid may be affected if courses are not finished within the stipulated time. On failing a course, progression can be affected in that eligibility for a proceeding course may be based on the course failed.

Employability

According to the Higher Education Ordinance (högskoleförordningen), students must have access to course counseling and careers guidance. Higher education institutions must ensure that prospective students are able to obtain the information they need about the institution. Information on admission, rules for application, eligibility and selection must be available. At the larger institutions there are normally special units, as well as study counselors, to deal with student questions whilst at smaller institutions, there is usually one specific person responsible for study and guidance counseling.

The higher education institutions are obliged to plan and dimension the education according to the demands of the labour market.

There is no state-regulated link between higher education institutions and employers, however labour market days are organised by institutions of higher education at least once a year. Here the students describe their education and companies present themselves. The labour market days often involve cooperation between student organisations and the institution’s unit for student questions and counseling.

The education is also linked to working life and given an external perspective through guest lectures by visiting professors and consulting teachers, as well as by representatives from companies and other organisations. These visits provide possibilities to integrate an external perspective into the teaching of both vocational and theoretical programmes.

Many courses include a compulsory period of practical experience at a relevant workplace, e.g. engineering, teaching, public administration and health science programmes.

Student Assessment

There is some form of assessment at the end of every course. This may take the form of a written or oral examination or, for example, a group presentation at a seminar. There may be various forms of continual assessment. Attendance and participation, for example in seminars, may be monitored. All general degrees contain a degree project corresponding to one term or a half term’s studies that is to be carried out individually or in a small group. A specially appointed examiner determines degree project grades. There is no final examination; all grades attained for the different courses are included in the final degree certificate.

The normal categories used in grading are fail (Icke Godkänd, IG), pass (Godkänd, G) or pass with distinction (Väl Godkänd, VG). However, a higher education institution may decide its own grading system and an increasing number are adopting the ECTS scale, a seven-tier grading system. The introduction of the new assessment scale is one step in the internationalisation of higher education institutions in the Bologna process.

Certification

The Government defines the degrees that may be awarded in undergraduate education and post-graduate education in the Qualifications Ordinance (Examensordningen). The ordinance states the scope and goals of each degree as well as other requirements for receiving certain degrees. A degree certificate includes results from all courses included in the course of study with numerical and qualitative grades. There is no final examination. The school head of the higher education institution signs the certificate.

A Bachelor’s degree in the arts, sciences, social sciences and artistic fields may be awarded on completion of 180 higher education credits (3 years full-time studies), including 90 credits in advanced studies in the main field, and an independent project equivalent to 15 credits. There are also professional degrees (2-3 years full-time studies) and the Higher Education Diploma (2 years full-time studies).

Second Cycle Programmes

Branches of Study

Legislation for a three-cycle structure of higher education applies since 2007. The former degree system has been reformed and structured to fit the three-cycle structure, which is now the only structure for all higher education institutions. First and second level education is referred to as undergraduate education whilst third level education is referred to as post-graduate education.

All higher education is pursued in courses and programmes. The courses can be taken independently or as part of a study program to form degrees. The scale of a course or study programme is measured in ‘higher education credits’. Full-time studies during one term, equals 30 higher education credits equal to 60 ECTS. HEI:s decide about the organisation of their courses.

The degree descriptions are decided upon by the Government in line with the overarching Qualifications Framework of the European higher education Area (QF-EHEA). A description of the different degrees, their scope and the learning outcomes expected are found in the Higher Education Ordinance and in the ordinance for The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Universitetskanslersämbetet), except concerning the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the Swedish National Defence College, and the private educational providers for which the Government makes such decisions.

Admission Requirements

For programmes not intended for new entrants to higher education – such as second level education – , the institutes themselves determine what selection criteria should be used. For admittance to second level studies, the applicant must have completed a first degree of at least 180 higher education credits, or have equivalent qualifications. Applicants to professional programmes covering the first and second cycle must fulfill the entry requirements for new entrants to higher education.

The Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitets- och högskolerådet)  

Curriculum

There is no common minimum curriculum for HE courses or programmes. In the Degree Ordinance (a supplement to the Higher Education Ordinance) the Government has laid down which degrees may be awarded and their objectives. It is up to each institution to decide how to reach the goals. The organisation of teaching is determined locally within the HEI. Day and evening classes can be offered, the later generally for part-time studies.

For undergraduate courses there must be a course syllabus and for a study programme a programme syllabus. The course syllabus must state the title of the course, the number of higher education credits, its level, aims, main content and course literature. In addition, the course syllabus must state the requirements regarding specific previous knowledge and other conditions for admission, the means by which students’ performance is assessed, if there is a limitation to the number or times a student may retake a test to achieve a passing grade, and the grades used, as well as any subsections in the course. The programme syllabus states the courses covered by the study programme, the main structure of the programme and any requirements regarding specific previous knowledge.

The teaching language is usually Swedish but in many subjects the course literature is in English and to some extent in other languages. Efforts to make higher education more international has led to increased student exchange and thereby to an increasing number of courses and programmes given in English.

Language programmes are offered in a number of European and non-European languages. Sweden’s five minority languages have special status.

Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet)

Teaching Methods

Teachers decide on methods as well as material. Students normally pay for books and reading material whereas the institution provides laboratory equipment etc. Students are expected to participate actively in group and laboratory work as well as in seminars. Attendance and participation may be monitored. There may be various forms of continual assessment of courses, for example through oral examinations, group presentations or seminars. ICT and computers are important aids in all higher education.

The institutions themselves determine how courses are to be organised. There are courses structured by discipline and courses of an inter-disciplinary nature. In some education programmes (e.g. teacher education and nursing) some of the education takes place at a workplace. A number of institutions of higher education have close co-operation with companies and industries in the region; degree work may be carried out in companies and theoretical studies can be mixed with practice.

The language of instruction is usually Swedish, but a large part of the course literature is in English, and therefore a good knowledge of both Swedish and English is essential, and a basic requirement for eligibility to higher education.

Instruction is also provided in alternative ways for example through problem-based learning problembaserad inlärning (pbl) where groups of students from different programmes e.g. medicine, health sciences and physiotherapy solve complex tasks together.

Progression of Students

Regulations regarding retaking of courses are determined locally at every HEI. A student who has failed a course is entitled to retake it at least five times according to the Higher Education Ordinance. There is no maximum time in which the students have to finish their courses; however student aid and grades may be affected if courses are not finished within the stipulated time. On failing a course progression can be affected in that eligibility for a proceeding course may be based on the course failed.

The higher education ordinance (Högskoleförordningen SFS 1993:100)

Employability

According to the Higher Education Ordinance, students must have access to course counselors and careers guidance. HEI:smust ensure that prospective students are able to obtain the information they need about the HEI. Information on admission, rules for application, eligibility and selection must be available. At the larger HEI:s there are normally special units to deal with student questions as well as study counselors, whilst at smaller university colleges there is usually one specific person responsibley for study and guidance counseling.

The HEI:s are obliged to plan and dimension the education according to the demands of the labour market.

There is no state regulated link between higher education institutions and employers, however labour market days are organised by institutions of higher education at least once a year. Often these involve cooperation between student organisations and the institution’s unit for student questions and counseling. Here the students describe their education and companies present themselves. The education at HEI:s is linked to working life and given an external perspective through lectures by visiting professors and consulting teachers. These visits provide possibilities to integrate an external perspective into the teaching of both vocational and theoretical programmes.

Many courses include a compulsory period of practical experience at a relevant workplace, e.g. engineering, teaching, public administration and health science programmes.

The higher education ordinance (Högskoleförordningen SFS 1993:100)

Student Assessment

There is some form of assessment at the end of every course. This may take the form of a written or oral examination or, for example, a group presentation at a seminar. There may be various forms of continual assessment. Attendance and participation, for example in seminars, may be monitored. All general degrees contain a dissertation corresponding to one term or half term’s studies, that is to be carried out individually or in a small group. A specially appointed examiner determines dissertation grades. There is no final examination; all grades attained for the different courses are included in the final degree certificate.

The normal categories used in grading are fail (Icke Godkänd, IG), pass (Godkänd, G) or pass with distinction (Väl Godkänd, VG), or a scale from one to five where five is the highest grade. However, a higher education institution may decide its own grading system and an increasing number are adopting the ECTS scale, a seven-tier grading system. The introduction of the new assessment scale is one step in the internationalisation of HEI:s in the Bologna process.

Certification

Students who fulfill the requirements for a degree receive the relevant certificate by the HEI. A certificate may also be obtained for a single passed course.

  • A one-year Master’s degree in the arts, sciences, social sciences or artistic fields may, on completion, be awarded for 60 higher education credits, including 30 credits for advanced study in the main field, and an independent project equivalent to 15 credits.
  • A two-year Master’s degree in the arts, sciences, social sciences or artistic fields may, on completion be awarded fo 120 higher education credits, including 60 credits for advanced study in the main field, and an independent project equivalent to 30 credits, or two 15-credit projects.
  • A professional Master’s degree may be awarded on completion of between 240 and 330 higher education credits depending on the professional area, including an independent project equivalent to 30 credits, or two 15-credit projects.
  • A professional graduate diploma may be awarded on completion of between 60 and 90 higher education credits, including an independent project.
  • First level or second level qualifications: Degree of Bachelor/Master of Education (Lärarexamen)
  • The Master’s degree is the equivalent of two years full-time studies and closely related to education at third level.
  • Third level (120-240 higher education credits).

Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet)

The Swedish University of Agricultural Science (Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet)

The Swedish Defence College (Försvarshögskolan)

The higher education ordinance (Högskoleförordningen SFS 1993:100)

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Organisation of Doctoral Studies

Third-cycle education includes courses, private study, research and writing a thesis in close cooperation with a supervisor. Many programmes also have various types of research seminars. The majority of doctoral students have some form of employment at their HEI, which often includes teaching at first and second-cycles (Bachelor’s and Master’s).

Third-cycle education that concludes with a doctoral degree covers 240 credits, the equivalent of four years. A programme that leads to a licentiate degree covers at least 120 credits, equivalent to two years. The actual period of study is the time that is actively spent on third-cycle studies. In 2013, the average actual period of study was 4.2 years for a doctoral degree and 2.6 years for a licentiate degree. The maximum permitted period of study is the total period of study regardless of the level of activity. For those who graduated with a doctoral degree in 2013 it was an average of 11 semesters, equivalent to 5.5 years. For a licentiate degree it was an average of 7 semesters, or 3.5 years. The maximum permitted period of study is so much longer because many doctoral students do not study full time. For example, it is common to undertake departmental duties at 20 per cent alongside studying. Study leave due to parental leave, sickness or similar are also reasons for an extended maximum period of study. The median age for a newly-graduated doctor in 2013 was 34.

Admission Requirements

For admittance to third level studies, (degree of Licentiate or degree of Doctor), the requirement is a degree at second level, at least 4 years of studies whereof at least 1 year at second level, corresponding foreign education, or equivalent knowledge. Admission to PhD programmes is handled by each university individually. Universities list PhD positions on their websites, usually along with other academic job vacancies. University websites provide more information about their procedures for applying for PhD studies and to find available positions. Some departments have fixed application dates, while others admit students on an ongoing basis. The general entry requirements for doctoral-level education are:

  1. A completed degree at Master’s (second-cycle) level
  2. At least 240 credits, of which at least 60 are at Master’s level, or
  3. Generally equivalent knowledge acquired by other means, inside or outside Sweden.

In addition to general entry requirements, each HEI may make specific entry requirements. These requirements vary greatly between the subjects and HEIs, and must be necessary for the student to be able to assimilate the knowledge provided. They may demand knowledge gained from higher education or equivalent professional experience, language skills or other demands.

Status of Doctoral Students/Candidates

The PhD student positions advertised by departments entail some sort of employment, but there are two different types of position with very different terms and conditions. A full employment (anställning) means a proper salary and full social security if in the case of illness, parental leave or unemployment once the project is finished. However, most PhD students will initially only receive a study grant (utbildningsbidrag). A PhD student that receives a study grant is guaranteed by law to be employed as a PhD student when he or she is reckoned to have no more than two years of full-time study left to complete (though not if you are financed by external projects/grants).

The study grant (utbildningsbidrag) is a type of founding. Some PhD students will receive this type of funding for the first 12-24 months of their PhD programme. The study grants for third-cycle students is a fixed sum, presently 15 500 SEK per month (~12 000 SEK after taxes). Although it is a taxed income, the department do not pay any general payroll tax for the PhD student so no social securities are covered for those who receive it. This means that in case of illness or parental leave the student will not be eligible for any real financial compensation. Once the student starts the full employment it will still take a certain number of months before he/she is eligible for social security. The law states that no PhD student is allowed to be financed in this manner for more than 2 years and 5 months (full time), after this full employment should be offered. Only if the PhD student has grossly mismanaged his/her duties is the department allowed to withhold full employment, and these charges must be formally brought before the Vice Chancellor.

If you had full employment in Sweden/EU before you were admitted as a PhD student, the social security gained then is ‘resting’ during your time with utbildningsbidrag which is counted as studies. If you get sick or go on parental leave you can take a temporary leave of absence from your PhD studies and use this social security. For more information, see for example the Stockholm University Student Union website

Supervision Arrangements

Supervision and how the supervisor is appointed can vary greatly between higher education institutions (HEIs) and subjects. According to the Higher Education Ordinance, at least two supervisors must be appointed for each doctoral student, of which one is the principal supervisor. In addition, one or more assistant supervisors may be appointed. There are no rules that stipulate exactly how much supervision a doctoral student is entitled to and some departments have established their own guidelines for the number of supervisory hours. The number of agreed hours should be stated in the individual study plan, so that this can be referred to if the doctoral student feels that he or she is not receiving the agreed help. The supervisor should also:

  • Review the manuscript and other material.
  • Recommend courses and relevant literature.
  • Teach research ethics to the doctoral student.
  • Help to establish contacts with other HEIs in Sweden and abroad.
  • Help the doctoral student to participate in international conferences.
  • Recommend funds from which to apply for grants.

According to the Higher Education Ordinance, a doctoral student has the right to change supervisor. 

Employability

According to the Higher Education Ordinance, students must have access to course counseling and careers guidance. Higher education institutions must ensure that prospective students are able to obtain the information they need about the institution. Information on admission, rules for application, eligibility and selection must be available. At the larger institutions there are normally special units, as well as study counselors, to deal with student questions whilst at smaller institutions, there is usually one specific person responsible for study and guidance counseling.

The higher education institutions are obliged to plan and dimension the education according to the demands of the labour market.

There is no state-regulated link between higher education institutions and employers, however labour market days are organised by institutions of higher education at least once a year. Here the students describe their education and companies present themselves. The labour market days often involve cooperation between student organisations and the institution’s unit for student questions and counseling.

The education is also linked to working life and given an external perspective through guest lectures by visiting professors and consulting teachers, as well as by representatives from companies and other organisations. These visits provide possibilities to integrate an external perspective into the teaching of both vocational and theoretical programmes.

Assessment

There is some form of assessment at the end of every course. This may take the form of a written or oral examination or, for example, a group presentation at a seminar. There may be various forms of continual assessment. Attendance and participation, for example in seminars, may be monitored. All general degrees contain a degree project corresponding to one term or a half term’s studies that is to be carried out individually or in a small group. A specially appointed examiner determines degree project grades. There is no final examination; all grades attained for the different courses are included in the final degree certificate.

The normal categories used in grading are fail (Icke Godkänd, IG), pass (Godkänd, G) or pass with distinction (Väl Godkänd, VG). However, a higher education institution may decide its own grading system and an increasing number are adopting the ECTS scale, a seven-tier grading system. The introduction of the new assessment scale is one step in the internationalisation of higher education institutions in the Bologna process.

To complete the degree it is necessary to pass all the courses included in the programme and to complete a pass-grade thesis worth at least 120 credits. The thesis must constitute at least half of the credits, 120 credits, but it is up to the department to decide the exact criteria for each PhD programme. The formal requirement for being awarded a doctoral degree is called the public defence of the doctoral thesis. The doctoral student “defends” his or her thesis orally and in public. For more information on the public defence process, see the Swedish Council for Higher Education

Certification

A licentiate degree may be awarded on completion of 120 higher education credits, including a thesis equivalent to a minimum of 60 higher education credits.

A doctorate may be awarded on completion of 240 higher education credits, including a doctoral thesis equivalent to a minimum of 120 higher education credits.

The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet) manages quality control for higher education and degree authorisation of state universities. It is responsible for the legal oversight of higher education and is responsible for the efficiency review, analysis and statistical monitoring of higher education.

The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet

The Swedish University of Agricultural Science (Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet)

The Swedish National Defence College (Försvarshögskolan)

Organisational Variation

Distance education has a long tradition in Sweden since we are a sparsely populated but large country. Most HEI:s offer distance courses of varying scope and orientation. The courses are designed to meet the educational needs of the individual as well as those of society, their purpose is to provide study opportunities regardless of place of residence and work or family circumstances. Thus, distance education is a way to enable studies later in life and promote lifelong learning. Technology for this – personal computers, fax machines, interactive video and videophone – is creating further scope for distance education and has made this a priority development area.

Mobility in Higher Education

Introduction

The Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitets- och högskolerådet) manages the European, Nordic and nationally initiated mobility and scholarship programmes below if not mentioned otherwise.

Student Mobility

Mobility programmes

Erasmus+

Erasmus+ programme, funded by the European Commission, offers scholarships to student to spend 3 to 12 months in practically all countries in the world within Student Mobility for Studies (SMS) although most scholarships are given to mobility to other programme countries in Europe. There are also scholarships available for Student Mobility for Traineeships (SMP) in the programme countries in Europe for a duration of 2 to 12 months. Students are also offered a possibility to increase their language skills prior to the mobility period through participating in Online Linguistic Support (OLS) funded by Erasmus+ programme. Practically all Swedish higher education institutions participate in Erasmus+.

Linnaeus-Palme 

Linnaeus-Palme programme is funded by Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) to strengthen cooperation between universities in Sweden and in developing countries. Student mobility for studies is funded for both outgoing and incoming students for one or two semesters. Practical placements can be included in the study period. It is the Swedish higher education institution that applies for the funding both for itself and for its foreign counterpart. 

Nordplus Higher Education

Nordplus Higher Education is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers (Nordiska ministerrådet). Nordplus Higher Education offers funding for higher education institutions in Nordic and Baltic countries. Student mobility for studies or placements is funded for periods of 1 to 12 months. In addition, Express Mobility grants exist for very short student mobility periods of minimum one week. Student mobility is also funded for participation in Intensive Courses of minimum one week organised by networks of Nordic and Baltic higher education institutions. 

Minor Field Studies

Minor Field Studies programme is funded by Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) to offer Swedish students a possibility to spend a minimum of eigth weeks in a developing country in order to gather material for an undergraduate or postgraduate dissertation and to do field work for the benefit of the host country. 

Visby Programme

Visby Programme administrated by the Swedish Institute (Svenska institutet) and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, supports institutional cooperation and individual exchanges at higher education institutions. The programme funds mobility periods for studies or work placements during maximum 10 months in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

IAESTE

IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) is administered in Sweden by Chalmers University of Technology to offer Swedish students an opportunity for a work placement abroad during 1 to 18 months mainly in the areas of Technology and Science. The students receive no scholarship but normally a salary from the employer. 

Support for international mobility

To obtain study assistance from the Swedish government for studies abroad, a student must have been resident in Sweden for at least two continuous years within the last five years. There are some requirements imposed on students and the institution of higher education. There are no obstacles to paying study assistance when a student also receives a scholarship for studying abroad.

Higher education institutions are themselves responsible for assessing and validating exchange programmes. If the exchange takes place within the context of an exchange programme, a learning agreement is made in advance between the outbound student and the Swedish higher education institution – normally the major part of the exchange studies are credited to the student’s programme at the university of origin. If the exchange takes place in some other way, for instance if the students is a so called free-mover (not taking part in organized exchange), a learning agreement can be established in advance or an assessment can be made retroactively.

Academic Staff Mobility

National policy goals regarding staff mobility in higher education

Sweden participates in a large number of international cooperation projects in the area of education and research. The aim of these projects is to draw attention to and focus on individual issues as well as to exchange experience across national borders. The Swedish Higher Education Act states ”… in their operations higher education institutions should promote understanding of other countries and of international circumstances.”

The Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitets- och högskolerådet) has the task to promote Swedish participation in the programmes and follow up, analyse and spread results and experiences from the programmes to increase the quality of education. This includes the mobility of higher education staff. 

Mobility programmes

Erasmus+

Erasmus+ programme, funded by the European Commission, offers funding for Swedish higher education institutions to send their teachers abroad to teaching assignments and also for inviting incoming lecturers from enterprises abroad. The programme offers also funding to send staff (including teachers) for training periods abroad (courses, seminars and job shadowing). 

Linnaeus-Palme

Linnaeus-Palme programme is funded by Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) to strengthen cooperation between universities in Sweden and in developing countries. Academic staff mobility is funded for both outgoing and incoming staff for a 3-8 weeks period. It is the Swedish higher education institution that applies for the funding both for itself and for its foreign counterpart. 

Nordplus Higher Education

Nordplus Higher Education is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers (Nordiska ministerrådet). Nordplus Higher Education offers funding for higher education institutions in Nordic and Baltic countries. Academic staff mobility is funded as well as different academic cooperation projects. 

Visby Programme

Visby Programme administrated by the Swedish Institute (Svenska institutet) and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, supports institutional cooperation and individual exchanges at higher education institutions. The programme aims to support projects and network building to stimulate long-term co-operation in Sweden and one or more of the Baltic countries, Poland, Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. Higher education institutions can apply for funding for contact meetings/ project planning in one of the countries in the program, and PhD students, researchers or teachers can apply for grants for short-term visits to actively take part in a conference. A higher education institution can also invite a PhD student, researcher or teacher for a study or research visit for two weeks to one month.

Teaching sabbaticals

STINT (Stiftelsen för internationalisering av högre utbildning) is a foundation that offers a range of funding and scholarship programmes in support of strategic internationalisation at higher education institutions. Teaching sabbaticals are funded at selected universities and colleges based in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the US. 

Bilateral programmes

STINT (Stiftelsen för internationalisering av högre utbildning) manages bilateral programmes for academic cooperation with Chile, China, Brazil, Japan, South Africa and South Korea. These programmes offer funding for academic staff mobility.

Salary, financial compensation and social security arrangements

Academic staff recieve their usual salary during their mobility periods, along with insurance.

Reward mechanisms for staff participation

Academic staff who participate in mobilities have all the costs covered, including travel, accommodation and a food allowance. For some of the programmes, e.g Linnaeus-Palme, the participating staff can obtain funding for an additional two week language course before the actual mobility period begins.

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European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.